Turkey’s ski resorts and prominent Austrian winter tourism infrastructure players have come together to weigh in on cooperation and seek ways to discover the country’s potential, as well as enable it to make the most of the non-winter period.
The Turkey-Austria Winter and Mountain Tourism Infrastructure Summit, held from Friday to the weekend, discussed sustainability, cooperation, projects and investments.
The event came as the hard-hit tourism and skiing industry tries to cope with major challenges, namely the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and climate change.
Efforts in recent years have sought to help Turkey gain popularity not only as a summer vacation spot renowned for its resorts, beaches, sea and ancient ruins, but also as a destination for winter tourism known for its mountains among ski enthusiasts.
Investments in ski resorts, accommodation and slopes seem to have paid off, as the number of those making long journeys to reach Turkey’s biggest winter sports centers is on the rise. The country has also been seeking investment and campaigns to develop mountain areas as centers for summer tourism.
Held at Mount Erciyes, one of Turkey’s most popular ski resorts in the central Anatolian town of Kayseri, the second edition of the summit was held in cooperation between Austria’s trade office, Advantage Austria, led by Commissioner for trade Georg Karabaczek, and Erciyes A.Ş.
The event brought together 12 Austrian companies with industry representatives and Turkish winter tourism authorities to exchange ideas and discuss concrete projects.
With a 150-year history in ski tourism, Austria is one of the world’s biggest players in the industry. Ski tourism accounts for around 7.5% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), said Johannes Wimmer, Austrian Ambassador to Ankara.
“It’s a big proportion. The foreign currency left behind by guests is 47 billion euros ($52 billion). Austria is one of the favorite stopovers for ski tourism. Most Austrian mountains are accessible by skiing,” Wimmer said at the event.
New cooperation, investments
Leading players in their fields, from artificial snow and cable car systems to imaging systems and turnstiles, Austrian manufacturers held bilateral meetings with Erciyes operators and management.
The summit aimed to enable players such as Axess, Demaclenko, Denizbank AG, Doppelmayr Garaventa Group, Gravity Cart, Input Projektentwicklungs, Leitner, MND Austria, Panomax, Sunkid, Skidata and Technoalpin to organize new partnerships and achieve new investments by cooperating with companies from Turkey.
Wimmer stressed the importance of cooperation, praising Turkey’s potential.
He noted that the world was facing crises such as war, climate change, which he said had created a fragile structure, noting that these problems could be solved through cooperation.
Murat Cahid Cıngı, President of Erciyes A.Ş., said that Austria is the “heart of winter and ski tourism”.
“Turkey is also a paradise country. But we are wasting it by just summer tourism,” Cıngı told the summit, which he said will help Turkey’s ski tourism.
In addition to Erciyes, Uludağ in the northwestern province of Bursa, where the first edition of the summit took place two years ago before the pandemic-imposed break, Palandöken in the eastern province of Erzurum and Kartalkaya in the north -west of the province of Bolu are among the best known. destinations for ski lovers.
Cıngı noted the importance of the mountains, pointing out that they prioritize Turkish winter tourism on all platforms in which they participate.
“Our point of view is not just Erciyes or our region. It bothers us that we waste those resources and those mountains on winter tourism. Looking at the amount of resources and revenue it generates around the world, especially in Europe, it makes us sad that our country’s mountains are wasted,” he said.
“There are magnificent mountains in our country, from east to west, from north to south. Unfortunately, we are not taking advantage of it,” he added.
He said Erciyes had become an international ski resort under a master plan launched in 2005, pointing out that they were working extensively with European and especially Austrian consultants and representatives.
Some ski resorts in Austria have already carried out climate change risk assessments, said Robert Steiger, who studies the impact of climate change on winter sports and tourism at the university’s public finance department. from Innsbruck in Austria.
“It’s not just about winter tourism anymore. Investments are made in such a way that the mountains can also be actively used in the summer,” noted Steiger, highlighting investments such as theme parks, children’s pools and mountain hiking routes.
Noting that people who don’t ski are also of great potential, he stressed the need to find a way to bring these people to the mountains in the summer, training that could allow facilities to earn money by outside of winter.
Natural and cultural resources should be made attractive to increase tourist experience, said Süleyman Toy, professor of urban and regional planning at Atatürk University, noting that climate change greatly affects this situation.
Likening climate change to a strong storm, Toy said only a strong tourism structure would be disaster proof.